I Crawl Through It, by A.S. King (2015)

Surrealist Fiction
15-21
I Crawl Through ItDefinitely weird, often confusing, but ultimately fascinating and rewarding, this is a surreal psychological exploration of the minds and lives of four deeply troubled teens in suburban Pennsylvania who face gruelling test weeks even while their school receives daily bomb threats. Brilliant Stansi wears a lab coat everywhere, even on her family’s “vacations” to school shooting sites. Gustav is building an invisible helicopter. Lansdale is a modern-day Pinocchio except it’s her hair that grows with every lie. And China is a poet so damaged she has turned herself inside out. Their parents are absent and self-absorbed, blind to their sons’ and daughters’ pain and anxiety. At school, daily drills interrupt their studies, eventually driving some classes outdoors. The steady stream of threats adds to the teens’ already weighty pressures, though many consider the intimidating messages a joke. King, an acclaimed novelist of YA fiction, has brilliantly captured the disquietude, doubts, and dreams of today’s youth even as she delivers a sharp criticism of high school assessments. The cover art is a series of A-B-C-D-E circles from an optical answer sheet. Stansi blows one test by answering questions based on her emotions – B for Bored, D for Disappointed … And key to the plot, there’s a naked man in the bush who gives letters for kisses or other acts, and Lansdale is getting “all the answers” from him. She intends to memorize them in preparation for the test. Which test isn’t clear. Nothing is clear in this novel, actually, and once you accept that, it becomes a fascinating read. It’s part fantastical fiction, part realism, and always loaded with metaphor (even I got the idea that China’s torment has torn her apart). King has created sympathetic characters you will find yourself cheering for, though I must admit it took some persevering at first. It’s like how you have to get into the rhythm of Shakespeare, but once you have, it both dissolves into the background and adds to your enjoyment.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23203744
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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